Update: In March of 2010, her parents announced that Frankie discovered the joy of eating and left tube-feeding behind for good!
I’d like to introduce you to Francesca and her devoted parents. Their extremely touching and wonderfully written blog, Frankly Frankie, documents Francesca’s struggles with eating. They need our morale support–right now.
Adorable two-year-old Francesca, or Frankie, has a story that begins very similarly to Stella’s: severe reflux (GERD) and cow’s milk protein intolerance, signaled by bloody diapers, led her to refuse to eat as a newborn. Frankie’s mom, Brett, eliminated dairy from her diet to no avail (sounds familiar). As with Stella, a reluctant switch to amino-acid-based formula and bottle feeding was made. But Frankie was unfamiliar with the bottle, the very expensive formula caused terrible constipation (not to mention its horrible taste), and she soon shut down orally, with near-total refusal to eat. Diagnosed with Failure To Thrive (FTT), she descended through the ranks of the growth chart until she fell off, despite valiant daily efforts to feed her “normally.” A g-tube (PEG) was surgically inserted into Francesca’s stomach in order to prevent severe malnutrition. Francesca remained off the growth charts until very recently, a truly hard-earned achievement for her parents, a milestone that prompted celebration.
She is now two years old and has been 100% tube-fed. (For the full story, click here.) But not for long. Frankie’s parents very recently embarked on an intensive and heroic weaning effort. What touches me so much about their story and current efforts isn’t, as you might expect, that Stella could easily have wound up in the same exact situation. What gets me is the absolute dedication and above-and-beyond efforts of Frankie’s parents. They are doing everything humanly possible to help Frankie discover the joy of eating. They have turned their home into a play picnic, a highly successful and messy therapeutic Graz method used during weaning that allows tube-fed kids to explore and play with food without pressure, on their own terms, and become comfortable enough with food to eat. The floors and walls in Frankie’s home are sticky.
A few days into the weaning process, Frankie’s parents are trying hard to keep the faith, as Francesca still prefers ice cubes over the many treats offered, including (hold on to your hats):
“oatmeal with soy milk and brown sugar, dried cranberries, pita chips, cherrios, sharp cheddar cheese, bread with seeds, coconut rice, apple sauce, carrots shaped like coins, vegetable and goat cheese frittata, whole wheat spaghetti noodles, steamed broccoli, carrots shaped like flowers, potato chips, medium cheddar cheese, slices of banana, cinnamon rolls, acorn squash, swiss chard, butternut squash, sour cream, rice krispies, puffs, bacon, scrambled eggs with cheese in a tortilla, spinach, red bell pepper slices, coconut flakes, frosted animal cookies, miniature strawberry yogurt covered pretzels, dried mango-pineapple, dried banana, egg noodles with green onion, salt and pepper, salad greens, baked potato chips, polish sausage, red cabbage, mini marshmallows, dried apples, chocolate yogurt covered pretzels, dried apricots, corn chips, dried cherries, croissant, peaches, banana bread, colby jack cheese, graham cracker cookies shaped like bugs, french bread, fresh mango, cookie bars, pear slices, candy corn, gummy bears, lettuce, chocolate frosting, gingerbread cookies, white frosting, salt and pepper potato chips, chocolate, quinoa, garlic bread, french toast, popcorn with butter, pink pixie popcorn, yogurt, celery with cream cheese and raisins, wheat thin crackers, apple slices, turkey soup with dumplings, uncooked pasta wheels, yellow raisins, brown raisins, fruit loop cereal, orange cinnamon rolls, parmesan cheese, tortillas, dried mango, tortilla chips, grated cheese, beef chili, pancakes with butter and maple syrup, chocolate cookies shaped like bears, jelly beans, deviled eggs, toast with raspberry jam, carrots with ranch dressing…”
Francesca is undergoing huge psychological and biological changes, and needs time to adjust. As such, with this type of weaning, there is a lot of anxious waiting and hoping, and often, a good measure of sheer desperation. (Hek, I threw bottles.) The outcome rests squarely in the hands of the child. As a parent, you feel helpless. Your role? To make food available (really, without even “offering” it), to remain calm, and have faith in a child who has rarely if ever shown any interest in eating.
Tube weaning is extremely stressful, even when it is going well. It’s an incredible leap of faith, and a very lonely journey. Please take a moment to visit the blog, Frankly Frankie, and send your warm, supportive wishes in comment form.
I’ll sign off by simply stating that I have absolute faith in Frankie, and her parents.